Whether you are a parent wanting beautiful pictures of your children, an amateur photographer looking to learn more about portrait photography or somebody who just likes to read an interesting interview accompanied by pretty pictures, these posts are for you…The interview
I’m 29 years old, a photographer and mum to two lovely little boys. I love my job and wouldn’t want to do anything else!
When and how did you fall in love with photography?
I’m an artistic and creative person by nature and have always admired photography and photos that evoke an emotion in me for as long as I can remember. I wanted to do photography in college but couldn’t afford the SLR that was required to do the course. It is only when I had my first little boy and wanted to capture every dimply smile, wrinkle and milk spot that I finally purchased my SLR and much to my husband’s annoyance I’ve never put it down!
Have you had any formal training?
I’ve had a day course on studio lighting….which is kind of ironic as I only shoot on location if I can help it! I feel that I take the best photos when the subjects are not in a studio environment and able to act natural and interact with their surroundings. By shooting in a setting that’s relevant to them you encourage them to be more relaxed and can include more of their character and personality i.e. shooting a surfer at the beach.
How would you describe your photography style?
Creative, quirky, personal and fun! I love creating images where I’ve captured a genuine expression or special moment to be treasured. I like snapping those moments that make a parent smile to look. About 90% of my photographic work is using the beauty of natural light.
What inspires your work?
Several things I guess.
Other photographers’ work
My ambition to be the best photographer I can possibly be. I would love for one day people to look at a photo and say ‘that’s very Emma Thwaites’.
A good relationship with the subject and really getting what they are all about.
How can you not be inspired when outdoors on location!?
My clients and I will choose a location together. Often it’s a place that has memories for them or somewhere where they themselves or their family feel very comfortable. When I arrive at the location I look around and find inspiration from the surroundings of what will make a good back drop and be fun for the subject to interact with. One of my favourite photography sayings is ‘It’s not the things you see, but they way in which you see them’. This is especially true when working on location. You need to know how to use what you’ve got. Although I will guide them through the shoot I like them to have fun with it and try out their own ideas too.
– With weddings, I find inspiration thinking of my own wedding day – and the awful photos from it! I want to give people the wedding photos I so wish I had, beautiful and full of love and all the little details of the day captured.
When did you first start out in portraiture photography?
I guess I got started on my own children. My eldest has been photographed his whole life and is now sooo comfortable in front of the camera. He’s always happy to strike a pose! I started doing photography professionally just over a year ago. Although I have always offered the service of portraits I somehow seem to have shot mostly weddings in my first year. Being mummy to my lovely boys means that my heart is naturally drawn to family, toddler & newborn work and I hope to be heading more in that direction.
Where in the UK are you based and how far would you travel for a shoot?
I’m in Sussex and I tend to say I’ll go anywhere to shoot in Sussex, but if the shoot felt right I’d travel to surrounding counties for sure.
How many portrait sessions do you shoot per year?
At the moment I try and do a couple each month. My youngest son is only 7 weeks old and my children are my priority and my work, as passionate as I am about it has to fit in with what works for them.
Could you please share some details of a shoot you particularly enjoyed capturing?
There are two that stick in mind.One is the newborn shoot I did with my son, it was wonderful being able to capture every detail of him in the way in which I wanted. The other is a riverside shoot I did at sunset in Arundel. We started off with a few piccies of the kids in the park to help them feel at ease in front of the camera and then walked down the river to have the backdrop of Arundel Castle for some family shots. It was the first shoot I did after realising I wanted to head in the direction of family work and my first real solo without working with a second shooter. I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and I was very pleased with the photos and the experience that the family had.
What would be your idea of a dream portraiture shoot?
Hmmm. I love nature and being outside. Rivers, sunsets, autumn, spring, summer, winter, forests, cornfields are all things that excite me! I love family life. So I guess a big family like the Waltons in a big old family house with lots of interesting land around it would be good!
What is your favourite age to photograph and why?
I guess even though it has challenges it would be toddlers! Probably because I have young children of my own and can chat to them in the same way I would my own. I love how you can get to know them, have fun with them and how they all have such different personalities already! I love it how excited some of them are by the whole experience. It’s an especially fulfilling experience when a parent tells me in advance that they are shy, and don’t usually take good photos and then their child really comes out of their shell and enjoys it. At my last shoot the little girl was shy to begin with but by the end of it was shouting ‘look at me Emma, look what I can do!’ She was obviously having fun and gaining confidence from the experience and that’s great.
What difficulties, if any, have you come across with portrait photography and how do you cope with them?
Same answer as above – TODDLERS!!! Sometimes, no matter just how hard you try things just don’t go well. I always explain to parents that when shooting children things don’t always go according to plan (as parents they tend to realise that may be the case anyway!) Quite often I sense that parents can be embarrassed by how their toddler is behaving and find the experience stressful. I always explain that I have kids of my own and that it really is not a problem to re-arrange a shoot for another day that’s convenient for them and when it may go better. So far (touch wood), I’ve never had to re-arrange yet! I always find that if the child is allowed to have fun, play, do their own thing without having to ‘pose’ for the camera that they usually don’t mind me being there and often produces the best pics anyway! I often play games with them for a while so they feel comfortable or let them have time out.
What advice would you give to parents that want you to photograph their little ones?
For parents of babies I always advise them to have plenty of nappies and wipes available, to try and make sure that their baby has had a really good feed and is content and to turn the heating up to ensure they don’t get cold and a change of clothes! Also, to bring anything personal, a favourite toy etc. I like to capture the details so hospital bands, scan pictures etc are always good! For toddlers, just keep everything as relaxed as possible with no pressure. Let them have fun and feel in control – even from little things like helping choose the clothes they’ll be wearing. Compromise and timeouts are essential!
What camera(s) do you use for your portraiture work?
I have shot all my work to date on a Canon 500D. I intend to upgrade to a 5D Mark ll though as I feel this would be beneficial for weddings where light can be an issue.
And your favourite lenses?
Primes all the way!!! Most of my portraits have been shot on a 50mm 1.8. and I love it, it’s my baby!
Do you use any lighting equipment?
For weddings yes, but I tend not to for portrait work. I adore natural light – I don’t think you can beat it! It’s a massive part of my photography style.
What advice would you give to wannabe portrait photographers?
Be behind the lens as much as you can!!! Shoot, shoot, shoot! It’s great to read and improve your technical knowledge but you also need to learn by experimenting and putting what you’ve read into practice. I see photography as an art – obviously you need to know the basics, but it’s important to find your style and play and get to feel really comfortable with your camera. I have been to shoots with up to 20 other photographers shooting the same subject at the same time but quite often the shots look nothing alike. Your style is something you can’t learn from books.
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
I entered a photo into a ‘Photobox –Around the World’ competition for travel photography a few years ago and it was shortlisted. All the shortlisted entries where then made into a GIANT photo book that was in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the biggest photo book in the world and displayed in an exhibition in London. All the shortlisted entrants were then invited to an evening opening of the exhibition where Annabel Williams was a guest speaker. I hadn’t long been into photography so it was quite a buzz! But I still feel proud every time someone tells me they can’t stop looking at their photos and how amazing they are. Out of all the photographs you have ever taken, which is your favourite and why?
Ooooooh, what a question! I think it would have to be one I took at a summer wedding from earlier this year. The bride and groom had a cornfield outside their back garden (wow!) and I was lucky enough to take them out there at sunset for some romantic couple shots together. There was one I did of the bride walking off by herself and every time I look at it, it still evokes emotion. To me it symbolises her walking into the new chapter of her life with her husband. The bride really liked it and it was her husband’s favourite shot from their day.
If you could capture anybody or anything on camera what would it be?
I guess the dream would be going on safari and seeing all these amazing things, but with a camera in my hand to capture it all!
Just so we can find out a bit more about the person behind the lens, could you tell me 5 things you like that are completely unrelated to photography? Music- I play (or attempt to play!) the guitar. BBQs. Nom nom nom! Sleeping to the sound of rain and thunderstorms while I’m cosy in my bed. CHRISTMAS!!My house being clean and tidy.
And 5 things you dislike?
- People turning off a great song in the car just because they’ve reached their destination!
- Putting on weight!
- 2. Prawns and seafood in general!
- Ladders in tights!
- 4Being cold!
What are your aspirations for the future, in photography or otherwise?
I’d like to do some more formal training. I’d also like to travel to get some amazing shots of the beautiful things around the world!